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Trump didn't want to send any disaster-relief money to Puerto Rico but a HUD official said he had to, report says

Pam Patenaude, deputy secretary to HUD-leader Ben Carson, submitted her resignation on Dec. 17.

by Emma Ockerman
Jan 17 2019, 4:58pm

A senior Housing and Urban Development (HUD) official is reportedly so mad at the Trump administration’s treatment of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, she’s quitting.

Pam Patenaude, deputy secretary to HUD-leader Ben Carson, submitted her resignation on Dec. 17 and cited personal reasons for her departure. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said she was not “mad at the administration” and denied that there was any internal conflict causing her to leave.

Several unnamed sources, however, told the Post that Patenaude disagreed with various decisions made by Carson and the White House, including the Trump administration’s attitude toward Puerto Rico, where nearly 3,000 people were killed in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

In a budget meeting, Trump reportedly said he didn't want any money going to Puerto Rico — and instead wanted funds directed to Texas and Florida, which were also struck by hurricanes around the same time. But Patenaude — who handled the distribution of post-disaster recovery funds for the island — told budget officials that Congress had already appropriated the money so it must be sent, sources told the Post.

Patenaude denied she was frustrated by the Trump administration’s handling of Puerto Rico.

“I didn’t push back,” Patenaude told the Post. “I advocated for Puerto Rico and assured the White House that Puerto Rico had sufficient financial controls in place and had put together a thoughtful housing and economic development recovery plan.”

A HUD spokesperson, who's on furlough status because of the partial government shutdown, did not immediately respond for comment.

Patenaude is now at least the third senior official to leave the agency in recent weeks, according to the Post, and her departure leaves HUD with fewer experienced political appointees. Neal Rackleff, the assistant secretary of community planning and development, and Michael Bright, executive vice president and chief operations officer at the mortgage agency within HUD known as Ginnie Mae, have also departed.

Advocates were concerned about Patenaude's departure because she had visited the island multiple times and seemed integral to its recovery efforts, according to NBC News

The partial government shutdown, now in its fourth week, has crippled the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as it has many other agencies. Puerto Rico’s ability to access some of HUD’s disaster-relief funding has even been affected, according to the Post.

Editor's note: This text has been updated to reflect Pam Patenaude's reported disagreement with the Trump administration.

Cover image: In this Oct. 3, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd at Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the region. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)